by Josh Hansen September 5, 2018

Christmas is Coming…How to Make the Most of Your Holiday Advertising

It seems weird to start thinking about the holidays when it is still sunny and warm outside, but for ecommerce businesses, holiday planning is happening earlier and earlier each year. After all, the competition is getting more and more fierce online, which means customers are becoming less loyal to brands and more loyal to user experience.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through six strategies you can use to ensure that you are connecting with the right customers and providing an experience that will not only urge the customer to purchase but keep bringing them back throughout the year.

1. Understand Who You Are

Understanding who you are and how you fit into the competitive landscape is an important place to start as we start thinking about retail holiday advertising.

Are you a company that can compete on price? Or maybe the biggest advantage you have as an organization is the fact that you have a very wide range of products. Some companies offer a product people buy for emotional reasons and some products are purely focused on convenience.

Whatever your competitive advantage is, your messaging and strategy need to be focused on who you are and what makes your products and/or business different.

How do you figure this out? First of all, examine the needs of your buyer persona. Next, expand your competitive benchmarking and look at how you can differentiate your offering. And finally, specialize where possible. When you can specialize, it usually means you are narrowing your product set and narrowing your demographic. A narrower approach typically is a precursor to reduced cost in supply chain, production and overall marketing breadth.

2. Connect with the Right Customers

No matter how strong you are as an organization, you are always oe event away from being irrelevant. Customers want a relationship with the company they are buying from.

Now, is it possible to have a relationship with every single customer? At some point, maybe, but that is not where you start. Target the people that are providing the most value to your business right now and begin expanding that list.

Segment customers by behavior and attributes and calculate the lifetime value of those different groups. You want to look at as much transaction data as possible, 2-3 years if possible.

When you understand this information, you can figure out how to interact with the high value segments of your customer base and can build a focused marketing model around these buyer personas. Your marketing model needs to scale across the organization. You should use the same process for your low value customer segments, too.

The biggest and most important takeaway here is that your top customers are always going to be of most value to you. Sadly, understanding these customer segments is something that most organizations do not focus on because acquisition is so much easier than development. However, the effectiveness of developing current high profit customer segments is massive because you are ultimately retaining your customers longer and introducing a lot more growth potential.

3. Personalize and Differentiate

There are billions of connected devices worldwide and most people spend hours on these devices every single day. A good chunk of that time is people shopping, which equates to trillions of dollars spent in commerce every year. That’s a lot to comprehend and it’s sometimes overwhelming to think how you can even compete with everybody trying to get a piece of the action.

But, if you focus on the user, literally everything else will follow.

Personalize and differentiate where possible. Every single shopper is up for grabs, so personalizing your messaging is how you can get their attention and convince them to pick your site over the competitors’ sites.

You also need to remove as much friction as possible. Users will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load, so focus on areas that will improve this.

Mobile is also continuing to increase at a rapid pace, so make sure your site has a good mobile experience.

Finally, one of the most frustrating things to a consumer is when they have went through the process of finding a product they want, only to see that it is out of stock. Inventory needs to be available, or that user will immediately leave your site and search elsewhere.

4. Use Video

Perhaps more so than any other time of the year, attention is earned during the holidays, not forced. I would go as far as to say that during the holidays, think of your videos as a gift you are giving to your customers.

That being said, if you try to force your way into the mind of your customers, you will likely fail. You will lose credibility and your advertising dollars will have little impact on the people you are trying to force into a purchase. In contrast, if you earn their attention, they will become loyal customers and every dollar of advertising spent will have immediate impact on sales.

The newest video campaign type now available to all advertisers is the TrueView for Action campaigns on YouTube. The title really says it all, they are the same as traditional TrueView in-stream ads, but they come with the additional action-focused button.

For ecommerce, you can add a Shop Now button or a Buy Now button directly on the video ad itself. This is much more effective at driving sales than traditional video campaigns that are focused on awareness.

TrueView for Action Tips

  • Your ad has the ability to be skipped after 5 seconds, so you need a good hook to draw them in.
  • Over 50% of ads are viewed on mobile with the sound on. Don’t forget to make an impact with audio cues. Use the brand name, product name and music with emotion in the audio of the video.
  • Target people with the intent to buy. You need to leverage your remarketing audiences and acquisition audiences in order to win with video.

Editing for Mobile

  • Fast pace
  • Tight framing
  • Bright colors

Remember ABCD

  • Attract – Open with impact
  • Brand – Naturally and intentional
  • Connect – Hold Attention
  • Direct – Be clear

It’s okay for an ad to feel like an ad. Don’t be confused with organic social content that does best when it is completely unrelated to promoting your products. These videos can feel like an ad, as long as it is portraying the right message and you are treating the video like a gift to your customers. Make them laugh, smile, or maybe just say, “Wow that was cool”.

5. Keep Your Product Feeds Fresh and Optimized

Before the holiday rush begins, you will want to have your online store’s product feed dialed in. Having errors in your product feed is like having products on the shelf in your physical store that aren’t for sale.

You are leaving money on the table every time you let a new day go by with disapproved products in your product feed. Not only are you missing out on quality traffic, you are also hurting the performance of products that are showing.

Keeping your product feed current and free of disapprovals will improve the health and performance of the account as a whole. Here are a few items that will be important to consider before the holiday season is upon us.

Suspensions. A suspension of a product feed during the holiday season can mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue. It is important that you look through your account early so that if a change is needed, you can take care of things before the holiday season begins.

Take a close look at the following items to make sure you are not in risk of suspension:

  • Content that enables dishonest behavior
    • Misleading
    • Deceptive
  • Inappropriate content
    • Dangerous or derogatory
    • Shocking
    • Sensitive events
    • Animal cruelty

Disapprovals. Products can be disapproved for a number of reasons including price mismatches, missing shipping rates, missing product identifiers such as GTIN and more.

Warnings. While warnings are the least concerning of the three errors you can see in your merchant center diagnostics tab, you are mistaken if you think they don’t matter. Fixing warnings often gives your products more visibility and lower CPCs.

6. Win with Smart Shopping

This year is the first holiday season with Smart Shopping campaigns. If I told you I knew exactly how these campaigns will perform during the holidays, I would be lying. However, all signs point to ultra success for advertisers who invest heavily in Smart Shopping during the holidays.

Google says that, on average, advertisers who have switched to Smart Shopping from traditional shopping campaigns have seen an average of 20% lift in important KPIs. I don’t see this trend changing for the holidays, so advertisers who are locked in with Smart Shopping before the holiday season are going to come out on top.

Here are some important things to consider with preparing your Smart Shopping campaigns for holiday success.

Evaluating performance

  • 15 day learning period to fully optimize
  • Smart shopping will take over all other shopping, display and remarking campaigns
  • No reporting on the network level (display, shopping, etc.)
  • Budget and ROAS are the main and only levers, make sure they are realistic


  • Adjust your budget to capure the demand
  • Longer trends: review campaign performance and make slight adjustments
  • Short Spikes: Decrease your ROAS target to encourage the algorithm to adjust

Make sure to start making these changes now and launch Smart Shopping campaigns now if you haven’t done so already. If you follow these tips and dial in your Smart Shopping Campaigns before November, you will be able to scale up and capture all the holiday traffic that will be out there this year!


With the holidays rapidly approaching, now is the time to get your holiday advertising set up right. Fortunately, by following the recommendations in this article, you’ll be well on your way to success!

By the way, if you’d like help with your holiday advertising campaigns, let me know here or in the comments. I’d love to give you a hand!

How do you approach holiday advertising? What tips or suggestions would you add to this article? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Ecommerce

Josh Hansen

Josh Hansen

Josh is a senior marketing consultant who also leads the technical aspects of the Google eCommerce product for Disruptive Advertising. He has worked with some of Disruptive's largest enterprise level eCommerce clients and has had a huge impact on their success as a business. Josh has systematically devised and proven many of the tactics all Disruptive marketing consultants now use in managing Google Shopping for their clients. He has a passion for staying ahead of the competition and ensuring our ability to drive results are the #1 in the industry. In his free time, Josh enjoys traveling with his wife, snowboarding, and playing with his Corgi.

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